Election Coverage

Oct 22, 2012 1:30 PM by AP

Obama health care law a flashpoint in 3rd District

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany has voted to repeal President Barack Obama's signature health care overhaul more than 30 times in Congress. That hasn't stopped his congressional race opponent, U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, from attacking Boustany as a supporter of the law known as Obamacare.

In a recurring point of attack, Landry has run ads saying Boustany has backed many of the broader ideas in the health care law, called the Affordable Care Act. He says Boustany is only now opposing the law because he knows it's unpopular in the southwest Louisiana-based 3rd District.

"This is a consistent pattern with Charles. It's kind of establishment syndrome. You support something. You stand up for it. Then, when you recognize that people don't want it, you decide you don't support it," Landry said.

Boustany says the ads are another example of Landry using underhanded tactics and misrepresenting his record to try to win the Nov. 6 election. His campaign has accused Landry of defamation.

"Congressman Boustany voted against Obamacare, voted 32 times to repeal it, led the only successful defeat to the legislation to date and is on record nearly three dozen times saying he does not support the legislation," Boustany campaign manager John Porter wrote in a letter objecting to one of the Landry ads.

Landry isn't backing down.

A recent Landry ad says, "Boustany agrees with 80 percent of Obamacare. He was the original co-sponsor of the Medicare death panels."

To back up the attack, Landry's campaign points to an interview Boustany had with MSNBC in 2009 in which the congressman talked of common ground in the ongoing health care negotiations at the time and said there was agreement on "about 80 percent of the issues."

Porter said that doesn't translate to Boustany saying he agreed to 80 percent of the health care law pushed through Congress by Democrats. He said agreeing to 80 percent of the issues doesn't equate to agreeing to 80 percent of the bill that passed.

For the "death panels" claim, the Landry campaign points to Boustany's co-sponsorship three years ago of a bill that would allow Medicare to pay for end-of-life counseling.

"When you co-sponsor a piece of legislation, that's a pretty big step," Landry said.

Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin slammed such a provision in Obama's health care law as creating "death panels" that would allow the government to withhold life-saving care from the elderly, an accusation that has since been debunked. Obama's health care law explicitly prohibits the board from rationing care, shifting costs to retirees or restricting benefits.

Porter said Boustany's legislation was designed to ensure seriously ill patients' decisions were honored and didn't include "death panels, bureaucrats or lawyers making the health care decisions for patients."

"Dr. Boustany led the fight to ensure death panel language, and these radical ideas were excluded from The Affordable Care Act," Porter said.

Boustany has run an ad calling Obama's health care law a failure.

Boustany and Landry were forced into the same district, stretching from southwest Louisiana into Acadiana, when the state lost a congressional seat after the latest federal census. Three other candidates are running for the seat, though they've done little fundraising.

A runoff, if needed, is set for Dec. 8.

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